The Penn State basketball program fell short short of an invitation to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday evening. Instead, the Nittany Lions are headed to the National Invitation Tournament as a No. 4 seed against No. 5 seed Temple on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.
The NIT consists of 32 teams split into four brackets. The higher seed in each matchup plays on home court until four teams remain and action moves to Madison Square Garden in New York City.
That’s where Penn State made its final push for NCAA Tournament consideration. The Nittany Lions defeated Northwestern and Ohio State in conference tournament competition before falling to Purdue one win shy of the championship game.
Penn State reached the Big Ten Tournament semifinal before bowing out with a 21-13 record. The 21 wins this season represent a high point in the Pat Chambers era, and Penn State reached nine victories against Big Ten opponents for the first time since 2011. The Nittany Lions had won 20 or more games only twice in the past 20 years.
Chambers approached Selection Sunday confident his squad did enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve watched other bubble teams and I’m watching very closely over the last 24 hours and I just think we’re a better team,” he told the Big Ten Network on Thursday. “I think we’ll fight, we’ll compete, we’ll scrap and we’ll win a couple at the tournament. That’s why we won a couple at the Big Ten Tournament at the Garden. Because, we’re a good team. When you put us all together and we have all the pieces.”
Led by guard Tony Carr, the Big Ten’s leading scorer (19.9 points per game), Penn State will be considered a top NIT contender. The Nittany Lions have made 10 NIT appearances, compiling a 22-9 record and the 2009 tournament championship.
If Penn State is able to reach the NIT title game, it would mark the Nittany Lions’ third campaign with 25-plus victories in school history. A national championship chase isn’t in the cards this March but that would represent quite a feat for a team that failed to finish above .500 in four of Chambers’ first six seasons in State College.
Fans can expect some interesting new wrinkles in the NIT this year. The NCAA announced experimental rule changes for the 2018 edition, introducing an extended three-point line, a wider free-throw lane, four 10-minute quarters instead of 20-minute halves, and a 20-second shot clock after offensive rebounds.